Thursday, December 29, 2016

On Year-End Reflections

In a matter of days, the calendar will turn, and 2016 will become 2017. This beckons personal, individual reflection.

If you’re tuning in to the Internet, you’re being told that 2016 was significant because a.) Donald Trump was elected president, because b.) Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Richard Adams, David Bowie, and Alan Thicke all died*.

But your reflections, as you pass from one year to the next, should primarily be about you. Not about the deaths of celebrities.

Famous people are always dying. Sometimes this legitimately is a tragedy, when someone is taken before their time. (Yes, it was a shame to see George Michael pass away at 53.) In other cases, it is simply the natural order of things. As I recently noted on this blog, Richard Adams died at the age of 96. That’s a good, long run by any standard. 

But more to the point: Unless you personally knew Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Richard Adams, etc., their deaths aren't really going to impact your life very much in the coming year. That’s the plain truth of the matter. I don’t want to be glib about these deaths, but you and Carrie Fisher probably weren't going to hang out much in 2017, even if she had lived. 

Her death is a significant loss for those who actually knew her—those who would have spent time with her in 2017. 

But not for you

Ditto for politics. The Internet is currently divided between people who believe that Donald Trump is going to usher in a new Golden Age, and those who believe that Donald Trump is going to wreck the whole kit and caboodle. 

They will both turn out to be wrong in 2017. Donald Trump will be significantly less wonderful than his most ardent fans are claiming he will be. (Lest my qualification here be mistaken for neutrality: I expect the president-elect to be better than the current one, and the alternative presented to us on Election Day; but no president is omnipotent, omniscient, or infallible.)

And if you’re one of those people who believe that the darkness of Mordor will descend upon the land on January 20th—that Donald Trump is the new Sauron (or, to use the more common cliche, the new Hitler)—you need to get a grip. Step away from the Internet, take a few deep breaths, and chill out.

But once again, let’s get back to you: Whether you are for him or against him, Donald Trump is not going to have as much influence on your life in 2017 as you are. 

Your year-end reflections, therefore, should focus on what you did right—and wrong—in 2016, and how you can do better in 2017. 

I’m not dismissive of external forces. While the Twitter-fueled mourning over celebrity deaths is largely the bandwagon effect, it is quite possible that you lost someone in 2016 who actually was close to you, and that was likely beyond your control. I know: I’m forty-eight years old; and by my age (unless you’re extremely fortunate), you know personal loss intimately. There are limits to what I want to share on the Internet in this regard, but believe me—I’ve been there. 

Ditto for the more mundane setbacks that often combine into a formidable cumulative effect: Sometimes the world seems to conspire against you. I know.

But as 2016 draws to a close, your reflection is best centered on what you can do to improve your circumstances in 2017. 

Consider those setbacks of 2016 that were genuinely beyond your control: How could you have reacted to them better, more resourcefully? That is worth thinking about.

In the upcoming year, you won’t be able to control every variable. But you will be able to control your own thoughts and actions.

That is where I recommend you direct your reflection as this year draws to its inevitable close: The year 2017 will have its share of celebrity deaths, political brouhahas, and Internet tempests-in-a-teapot. But your happiness at the end of 2017 will mostly depend on what you do between 1/1/17 and 12/31/17.  

So what will you do in 2017? Today is December 29th, 2016. Time to get busy reflecting and planning, so that you can get busy doing on January 1st. You will have a lot of control over what happens to you—and for you—in 2017. Use that power wisely, and use every resource at your disposal. 

*This morning it was reported that Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, also passed away. May they both rest in peace.